Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Today, I will talk about things that people under the age of 40 know nothing about. I will also talk about things that people in the rest of Canada know nothing or very little about: the tremendous contribution that the French arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has made to the development of the Quebec nation's identity.
Radio-Canada first entered Quebec homes over radio and television airwaves during the time known as the “grande noirceur”, the great darkness. We were an oppressed and nearly voiceless people.
To Quebeckers, Radio-Canada's French network is more than a television network. It was one of the most powerful enablers of our collective emancipation. If the Quebec nation is aware of its distinct nature within North America, if it is aware that it is a distinct society within Canada, I believe that is due in large part to the amazing legacy bequeathed to us by Radio-Canada broadcasts.
That is why I get worried when the government cuts funding for our French-language public broadcaster. Radio-Canada is a diamond, and if you want to bring out the best in a diamond, you do not use a hammer. You use knowledge and finesse to make it even more beautiful and useful. That is not what I am seeing now in the government's cuts to the corporation.
Will the government continue to weaken and emasculate this cultural tool that is critically important to maintaining the French fact in North America?
I remember when we were kids sitting in front of the TV. The first time we turned the TV on, Radio-Canada had just come on the air. We saw that picture of the Indian who was waiting, just like we were, for the shows to start. Little did we know that our world was about to change.
I am a child of the Quiet Revolution. I am a child of the public schools, but there is something else I am proud of: I am a child of Radio-Canada. I watched La Boîte à surprise, and there are others here who remember it. Those programs were catalysts and incubators for Quebeckers' creativity, and that creativity is now our calling card internationally in both arts and culture and in business.
I remember Sol et Gobelet, those two wild and crazy guys played by Favreau and Durand, who looked at spaces and objects in different ways. In those two characters, how can we not see a foreshadowing of what Robert Lepage would do in his productions? They are not so different. That is where the ideas were hatched. I think back to La Ribouldingue, with Mandibule, Bedondaine, Paillasson, Friponneau, Dame Plume and Giroflée. After them came the casts of the Cirque du Soleil. There is not a lot of creative distance between the imaginary world that Radio-Canada created for children and what has now been created for children and grown-ups the world over. That was where it came to life: on Radio-Canada.
Growing up with an imaginary world is fantastic. At the same time, our eyes were opened to this planet. Our eyes were opened and our minds were inspired by fantastic voices, francophone voices. My mind goes back to Henri Bergeron opening Les beaux dimanches: “Mesdames et messieurs, bienvenue, voici Les Beaux dimanches”.
What we were seeing on television was the dawning of our culture. I remember seeing Michel Tremblay's play Hosanna, with that incredible transvestite as a character. That is where the darkness from which we were emerging gave way to the light ahead.
I also remember the joy in listening to the wonderful, intelligent voices of Jean-Maurice Bailly and René Lecavalier. They hosted La soirée du hockey and dissected every hockey game using their words as precisely and skilfully as if they were master craftsmen. They were magicians of the spoken word and masters of French. That was the Radio-Canada of my childhood. They introduced us to all our heroes on skates, of course, and they were francophone heroes. That told us that we Quebeckers were good and quick on our skates too. That is what those commentators told us. It was wonderful.
On another level, I remember René Lévesque on Point de mire. René Lévesque, the greatest Quebec premier in history, ensured Quebec's survival for decades to come with Bill 101, which allows us to integrate immigrants into the French language in Quebec. I remember one episode of Point de mire in particular. René Lévesque was talking about the importance of unions in society. He had his blackboard—he always worked with a blackboard—and talked about capital—not a word we hear a lot—about trade unions and about the importance of the balance between the two in ensuring that wealth was distributed. That is what unions were for. To me, it seems that the show should be rerun quite often. The members opposite would learn a lot from that show and from that great man.
There are also the women of CBC television who paved the way for the emancipation of women in Quebec. I am thinking of Aline Desjardins, Jeannette Bertrand and Lise Payette, to name but a few. I remember how my father hated them. He said that those women got my mother all worked up. She no longer wanted to prepare the meals or iron my father's shirts. My father accused the women of CBC television of having an influence on this behaviour. The women of CBC/Radio-Canada made us better men, better fathers, better husbands, and better partners. Those women changed us and Quebec society. That is why we are proud of CBC/Radio-Canada.
On my way here I was remembering other shows such as Quelle famille! We watched that show every week. We identified with the characters in the shows we watched: Les Couche-Tard with Roger Baulu and Jacques Normand; the major dramas, such as Un homme et son péché—22 years of avarice—and Le temps d'une paix with Rose-Anna and Ti-Coune. I do not think there is a French network in the world that has produced as many fine shows with as much creativity and connection to a people as the French section of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
I could go on for an hour celebrating all the magic this institution created back home, but the underhanded attack on the news service concerns me. The news service is affected by the latest cuts and that doubly concerns me. For one thing, it is the main news source, not to mention the most consistent and most reliable one, that we have in Quebec. For another, this affects Mr. Gravel's team of journalists on the program Enquête in particular.
If Alain Gravel were living in the United States, he would have won the Pulitzer Prize. The first-hand information he gathered that led to the Charbonneau commission is the type of information that brings down governments. I hope that Radio-Canada will not suffer unduly as a result of these cuts because I expect that our very own Eliot Ness will come stick his nose in the Conservatives' business. He would come to Ottawa, look at SNC-Lavalin's contracts and the Conservative donors and see whether there are some front men involved. That is the type of journalism we need and it is going to be affected by these cuts. I find that truly dangerous for democracy.
The Conservative government started by going after scientists, whose findings and studies it does not like, and now it is turning toward journalists, whose investigations and analyses it does not like. What are things coming to? That is my question.
On that note, I agree to answer some questions.
Congratulations to my colleague.